NORTH STONINGTON — When Wheeler High takes on nearby rival Stonington High in just about any sport, the numbers are always going to favor the Bears.
Stonington is a Class M school with 726 students, nearly four times that of Wheeler’s 186. Wheeler is a Class S school with one of the smallest enrollments in the state.
So when Wheeler started Tuesday’s boys basketball game with Stonington, the Lions put four sophomore starters on the floor.
Stonington was opening its season with three returning starters. The Bears also have a young lineup, but not as young as Wheeler’s. The numbers were simply in Stonington’s favor, and it showed in the score as the Bears prevailed, 86-25.
Midway through the first quarter, Stonington had a six-point lead, 12-6. But the Bears scored the final nine points of the quarter on three baskets by R.J. Parrilla (11 points) and a 3-pointer from David DeFanti to lead 21-6.
The surge continued: Stonington outscored Wheeler 9-1 to start the second quarter to go up 30-7. Zach Scott (20 points, three 3-pointers) hit a 3 in the spurt.
Wheeler’s Ian Spracklin (15 points) made a 3-pointer for the Lions to make it 30-10. Stonington reeled off 14 more points to lead 44-10 with 2:40 left in the half.
Stonington was able to get easy breakout opportunities, and was also effective with 3-pointers during the run. The Bears finished with 13 3-pointers in the game.
“When we shoot it well, we are going to be tough to handle,” Stonington coach John Luzzi said. “But we just can’t rely on that. We have to go to the rim more. We only shot one free throw and that is a little bit concerning.”
Stonington outscored Wheeler 18-2 to open the second half and took a 70-15 lead. Luzzi pulled his starters with four minutes remaining in the third quarter.
Stonington did not push the ball in the final quarter, scoring just 12 points, all on 3-pointers. The Bears scored just three points in the final 5:22 of the game.
“We tried to play classy; we tried to do the right thing,” Luzzi said. “Neal (Cobleigh) is one of the better coaches I know. He works hard and his kids play hard. They started four sophomores. When they are seniors, a bunch of teams might not want to see them.”
Cobleigh, the Wheeler coach, said his team will work hard to get better.
“We need to get older, you know,” Cobleigh said. “Nobody said it was going to be easy. We just have to fight and execute. That is all you can do.
“We try to teach every day. It is just what it is. We just have to fight through it. But I will take this team.”
Marquis Jackson scored 12 points for the Bears with a pair of 3-pointers. Lennox Deer and Anthony Fry scored nine each and Jacob Geary had eight.
Clayton Carini made a pair of 3-pointers and finished with nine for Wheeler
Stonington has two back-to-back games to conclude the week, hosting Plainfield on Thursday and Fitch on Friday. Both games start at 7 p.m.
Wheeler (1-2) hosts St. Bernard on Friday at 7 p.m.